A clipboard left in an engine cowling during pre-flight checks was “ingested” into a Jetstar Airbus A320 before it took off from Auckland bound for Sydney, with the plane later forced to return to New Zealand.
An Australian Transport Safety Bureau report into the October incident states Jetstar has updated its aircraft dispatch procedures after a leading hand placed his clipboard into the engine cowling to protect paperwork from wind and rain.
“While preparing the aircraft for departure the leading hand placed a clipboard in the right engine which was subsequently ingested during start-up,” the ATSB report released on Tuesday found.
“During the walk-around the dispatcher noticed the clipboard in the right engine but, believing it would be retrieved prior to the aircraft departing, the dispatcher did not notify the leading hand or supervisor of the foreign object debris as per company procedures.”
Tuesday’s report reveals the leading hand realised he was missing his clipboard as the Airbus was taxiing but thought the dispatcher had it.
When he asked her about it the pair quickly realised it was missing.
“The ground crew returned to where they were preparing the aircraft and noticed paper debris on the ground,” the ATSB report states, adding ground crew then organised for their operations area to contact the flight crew.
But 12 minutes after the leading hand first realised his mistake the plane took off.
A short time later the pilot was told the paperwork may have been sucked into the right-hand engine. The captain asked if there was also a clipboard involved and was advised by a company engineer on the ground that a piece of sheared metal had been found.
At that point, the flight crew decided to return to Auckland, landing an hour after the Airbus had taken off.
“The engine was inspected by engineers and paper was found throughout the engine. They also found minor damage to an engine fan blade and attrition liner,” Tuesday’s report states.
The ATSB found at the time there was no procedure in place for the ground crew to contact the flight crew in the event of a “non-normal or emergency situation” prior to or after departure.
There were no rules on how paperwork should be prepared and managed during adverse weather.
Jetstar workers are now given a specific warning about not placing items in the engine cowling and greater detail on checks and responsibilities.
Ground crew staff are told how to re-establish communication with the cockpit “such as visually gaining the attention of the flight or contacting them via radio”.